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August’s Fungi Focus: Blackberry Leaf Rust Fungus (Phragmidium violaceum)

August’s Fungi Focus: Blackberry Leaf Rust Fungus (Phragmidium violaceum)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 5 August, 2019 ~ 5 comments

We have now entered those glorious few weeks in the foragers’ yearbook when the proliferation of brambles across the country is at last yielding its fruits. For the bulk of the seasons, however, Rubus fruticosus can be viewed as little more than an annoyance, an invasive native with barbed, snaking canes that spread across pathways and woodland floors to form impenetrable thickets, snare up by passers-by and crowd out surrounding biodiversity (See ‘Native dominants or botanical ‘thugs’ in woodlands).  Or so it might seem. You will have probably noticed the tracks left by moth caterpillars munching on bramble leaves. Any blackberry-picker will also be well aware of the close association brambles seem to have with stinging nettles. Both attract a wide variety of insect life during their flowering months.  Deer and small mammals such as dormice, not to mention numerous bird species, are also the beneficiaries in terms of food and shelter of the bramble’s vigorous growth .


Woodlands and biodiversity

Woodlands and biodiversity

by Lewis ~ 29 March, 2018 ~ 3 comments

Most regard woodlands as a beautiful and important part of our countryside, and feel that they can exert a profound and positive influence on our emotional state.    Time spent wandering through the woods can have a relaxing and calming effect. Woodland only forms a small percentage of our countryside (about 13%), and some of that is dominated by conifers planted in the post-war period for timber production; however, the area covered by broad leaved trees is now increasing.    Despite this, our woodlands do harbour a wonderful variety of wildlife (think of the red squirrel, the nightingale, the dormouse) but there is concern that woodland plants and animals face a number of threats - many species are in decline.   Why is this ? Read more...

MIDDLE EARTH ... and our own woodland project

MIDDLE EARTH … and our own woodland project

by Jackie & David ~ 24 February, 2018 ~ 4 comments

As we sat outside The Middle Earth pub on Whitby’s harbour front, enjoying the early evening autumn sunshine, my wife looked at me and said “There’s something I want to talk to you about”. For a heart stopping moment my mind raced and I felt a mixture of emotions as I feared some dreadful news was coming my way. Instead, Jackie completely floored me by asking “How do feel you about us buying a wood?”   In the first instance I was speechless then apprehensive, confused and finally, elated!   Looking back, how I managed to hold onto my pint I’ll never know. Read more...

"A Wood of one's own" by Ruth Pavey

“A Wood of one’s own” by Ruth Pavey

by Angus ~ 3 October, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Ruth has that rare combination of being both an active doer and an engaging storyteller: "A Wood of one's own" is about what the author has done with her four acres of land in Somerset, neglected orchard and woodland.  It's the story of how, over the last 18 years, the land has been brought under control with help from friends and relatives but mostly the result of her sheer persistence and patience.  The friends have not always "got it" about why she has taken it on and they ask questions like, "what's it all for?" or "when will the wood be finished?"  But within the book are dozens of answers to sth question of why take on ownership of a small piece of countryside - to improve the woodland, to learn its history, to grow apples, to meet people, have parties, and just to experience the earthy business of managing the land.  It's clear from this book that actual ownership has big advantages over just having a right to visit a woodland - as Pavey says: 'Unless you own the land you are not free to grow things where you like, to make mistakes, to "spuddle about".' Read more...

Dead hedging : wildlife friendly and people guiding.

Dead hedging : wildlife friendly and people guiding.

by Angus ~ 23 July, 2015 ~ 8 comments

Dead hedges are piles of branches and twigs arranged to form a barrier which are increasingly used as a way to dispose of the material that arises from thinning or clearing operations in woodlands. Tree surgeons call this waste material of saplings and side branches "arisings" whereas foresters tend to call it "lop and top". Using surplus branches in this way is good for wildlife - especially for small mammals and birds - because it gives them somewhere to shelter that is protected from predators and from the wind and rain. It's also good for insects: dead hedges in effect create a linear eco-pile. Recently we at woodlands.co.uk have been using dead hedging as a way of guiding the public to stay on public footpaths and to discourage people from walking across sensitive areas of a woodland. In many situations the dead hedge needs to have gaps left in it for deer paths and for managers and owners to get around the woodland. Read more...

queen bbee

Help save our bumblebees

by Dave Goulson ~ 17 November, 2014 ~ 3 comments

You may well have heard that bees are in trouble. Domestic honeybee hives seem to die more often than they used to, and some of our wild bees have disappeared altogether; for example, three of the UK’s twenty seven bumblebee species have gone extinct. The big, long-term driver of declines has been farming intensification; where once we had plentiful hay-meadows and chalk downland, rich with flowers, we now have flower-free monocultures of wheat or silage grass.

Pesticide use is also contributing to the problem, particularly new generations of systemic, persistent insecticides called neonicotinoids that get into nectar and pollen of both flowering crops and wildflowers. Read more...

Native dominants or botanical 'thugs’ in woodland.

Native dominants or botanical ‘thugs’ in woodland.

by Lewis ~ 28 March, 2014 ~ 2 comments

Much has been written  recent in recent years about the ‘dangers’ posed to our native flora & ecosystems by ‘alien’ invasive species.  Introduced species such Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), and Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) have been cited as ‘drivers’ of ecosystem change – alongside habitat loss, pollution and over-exploitation.

However, voices have been raised to express concern over certain native species that can grow rapidly producing large amount of biomass (or indeed necromass – think bracken dying down in late autumn) and how they may be impacting on our flora, particularly plants of the woodland herb or field layer.  Read more...



by Chris ~ 16 May, 2010 ~ 9 comments

Nightingales are migratory birds and fly into the U.K. in the Spring, having spent the winter in Africa. The nightingale is particularly well known for its song; (a wma file of which can be found here).  However, not everybody in the UK is likely to hear them singing.  It is not found in Scotland or Wales, and in other places its numbers have fallen quite dramatically.  It is now mainly found in the South-East, especially Kent, Sussex, Suffolk and Norfolk. A sighting is unlikely; nightingales are shy, drab brown birds who seek the dense vegetation described below. Read more...

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